When Roma took home several awards at this year’s Oscars, some filmmakers basked in the glow of the Netflix insignia and reveled in the streaming love. Others, like Steven Spielberg, took a stand and said those films are TV movies and should be at the Emmys. Personally, it seems like Spielberg is just a little upset he didn’t get a nomination and is taking it out on the streaming giant.
But it has also started a much needed discussion about what constitutes a feature film. Is it form? Is it length? Is it where it’s shown?
In its most basic form, a feature film tells a story in 40 minutes or more. That’s it. The movie can be bad. It can have stale characters and terrible dialogue. It can even be an abomination and completely disregard social norms and morals, but it’s still a film.
The Academy takes that definition further and has detailed rules about how the movie has to be shown to qualify for awards. A film has to be shown in a Los Angeles county theater, and can be shown in New York City, for admission. Roma was shown in theaters for several weeks — not just the two-week period. Netflix had aimed for that before it started streaming. And Netflix is even expanding its theater releases in the midst of Alfonso Cuarón’s success.
Even with all of the proof that Netflix’s films are meeting all of the same requirements, who is to say a film that’s good shouldn’t deserve an award. Film is about art. The purpose is not to make the most money or to win all of the awards. Sure, it’s nice to take home an impressive statue of a man, but that’s not the sole reason people make films. Filmmakers do what they do to put a little bit of themselves into their work. It’s their passion; it’s their career.
Netflix has proven to be a leader in allowing directors to carry out those visions. Filmmakers can be experimental without the pressure to sell tickets and make money. Take Brie Larson as an example. Because Netflix said yes to her directorial debut, many people will see the capabilities of female actors and directors. Her film, Unicorn Store, isn’t a film that would cause many people to sit in a theater. Instead, people would wait until it comes out on a streaming platform. By making it accessible right away, more people will be apt to see it.
More filmmakers need to get with the times. There are more opportunities for people to see the movies on a streaming subscription. That doesn't mean the production team can’t show it in a theater or that they even have to change their style. Filmmakers should just make movies without worrying about format. And if they want to, they can screen it in a theater and put it on Netflix. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Now that’s a novel idea.
Georgia Davis is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you think Netflix films should qualify for the Oscars? Tell Georgia by tweeting her at @georgiadee35.